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Agreement Reached to End Honduran Standoff

TEGUCIGALPA – The delegations representing ousted Honduran President Mel Zelaya and current President Roberto Micheletti signed an accord on Friday that both sides, as well as the United States and Organization of American States, have hailed as bringing an end to a months-long political crisis.

After reaching agreement “on the pending points, the delegates from the two commissions have now signed the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord,” the OAS’ political affairs secretary, Victor Rico, told reporters at the hotel in this capital where the signing ceremony took place.

Rico said that after agreement was reached Thursday night on the issue of whether or not Zelaya would be reinstated – a matter left to Congress to decide – negotiators on Friday hammered out “the preamble, the final provisions and timeline.”

“The accord will take effect as of the date of its signing, which is today (Friday), and over the next few days the verification commission, to be coordinated by the OAS, will be formed, the National Unity Cabinet will be formed,” he said.

He said the Cabinet “should be functioning” by next week, although he added that “there is no deadline” for Congress’ decision on whether or not to reinstate Zelaya.

“I’m sure the lawmakers will be fully aware of the importance and political urgency of these determinations and I hope they (vote) in the shortest timeframe possible,” he added.

“We hope all this is finalized in a reasonably short period of time.”

The verification commission, Rico said, will be composed of two OAS representatives, who will coordinate the body, as well as one delegate from each side in the Honduran political dispute.

The two delegations went to Congress after the accord was signed and presented the document to that legislative body, which will now begin preparing for the vote on whether or not to reinstate Zelaya, who was removed from office in a June 28 coup.

The deal signed Friday includes several points contained in a proposal made by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias in his role as mediator in the crisis.

The final document encompasses all the accords reached in talks between the two sides since Zelaya slipped back into the country on Sept. 21 and took refuge at the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa, members of both delegations said.

It calls on both sides to recognize elections scheduled for Nov. 29 – in which neither Zelaya nor Micheletti are eligible to participate – and for the creation of a truth commission, but rejects the political amnesty that Arias had proposed to resolve the stalemate.

Under the terms of the accord, Zelaya’s camp also has agreed not to pursue efforts to create a Constituent Assembly. That point was also proposed by Arias, as it was the president’s efforts to seek a rewrite of the charter that had prompted the putsch.
The two sides had said last week that their OAS-sponsored talks had collapsed, but renewed pressure for a solution by a U.S. delegation led by Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Thomas Shannon forced Micheletti’s delegation to allow Congress to decide on the matter of Zelaya’s reinstatement.

The de facto government had earlier insisted that because the question of Zelaya’s return to power was a constitutional matter only the Supreme Court could decide.

The United States and the European Union had said that they would not recognize the winner of the November elections unless Zelaya had been reinstated beforehand, but Shannon indicated that with Thursday’s agreement the United States now supports the upcoming balloting.

“The United States will accompany Honduras in its elections on Nov. 29,” Shannon said.

Zelaya told Radio Globo that “the mere fact that the need to (restore the political order of June 28, 2009) is being recognized represents a triumph for Honduran democracy and ... the return to peace for the country.”
Micheletti has contended all along that Zelaya’s ouster was not a coup, insisting that the soldiers who dragged him from the presidential palace and put him on a plane to Costa Rica were simply enforcing a Supreme Court ban on the president’s planned non-binding plebiscite on the idea of revising the constitution.

Though the coup leaders accuse Zelaya of seeking to extend his stay in office, any potential constitutional change to allow presidential re-election would not have taken place until well after the incumbent stepped down.

Prior to Thursday’s agreement, Zelaya had made numerous concessions to achieve an accord with Micheletti, including agreeing to preside over a national-unity government for the balance of his term, which ends in January.

He also had pledged to abandon the push for a constitutional overhaul that provoked the ire of the military, the political establishment and the few dozen families who dominate the Honduran economy.

Micheletti had earlier suggested that both men step aside in favor of an interim president, by Zelaya’s delegation to the talks has remained steadfastly opposed to such a solution.

Mayra Mejia, a member of the ousted president’s camp, said last Friday that “if the coup d’état can’t be reversed, no democracy in Central America and Latin America can be at ease, because (putschists) will find an ideal, simple path: stage a coup and whitewash it later with an election.” EFE




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